In 1985 I visited the Soviet Union with a small group of Austrian tourists (I was studying in Vienna at …Continue reading »... Read more »
Gross, C. (1993) Huxley versus Owen: the hippocampus minor and evolution. Trends in Neurosciences, 16(12), 493-498. DOI: 10.1016/0166-2236(93)90190-W
If we think deeply about evolution, we eventually will ask questions not about the origin of species but about the origin of life. For some theistic evolutionists, this is the point of Designer intervention. They find it hard to imagine that chemicals could combine in way that gives rise to life. For those less inclined [...]... Read more »
Urey, Harold. (1952) On the Early Chemical History of the Earth and the Origin of Life. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 38(4), 351-363. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.38.4.351
Orgel LE. (1998) The origin of life--a review of facts and speculations. Trends in biochemical sciences, 23(12), 491-5. PMID: 9868373
In 2003 Evolutionary Anthropology came crashing into popular culture with the discovery of Homo floresiensis, found – as the name might suggest – on the island of Flores. Affectionately nicknamed “the Hobbit” by the media, this diminutive creature stood at only 108 cm tall (~3′ 6”) and by virtue of this peculiarity managed to capture [...]... Read more »
Brown, P. (2012) LB1 and LB6 Homo floresiensis are not modern human (Homo sapiens) cretins. Journal of Human Evolution, 62(2), 201-224. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.10.011
Does your dog understand you when you point at something? If so, this may be one of the few pop intelligence quizzes on which it can outscore a chimpanzee.
Previous studies had shown that dogs can pass a test in which a human points to a container and the dog must look inside it to find food. Human one-year-olds can pass this kind of test too. But chimpanzees have a hard time with it. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany wondered if these previous tests were unfair to chimpanzees. Would changing the setup of the experiment prove that chimps really do understand our gesturing?
In previous versions of the experiment, chimpanzees had been seated behind a barrier, while dogs were in the same room as the humans. Additionally, the objects that the animals were asked to choose between usually sat between the human experimenter and the chimpanzee--so the human didn't actually need the chimps' help to lift a container and get the food underneath. Perhaps the chimpanzees understood just fine when the human experimenter pointed to a cup, but thought, "Get it yourself, big-brain."
So the German researchers leveled the playing field between the two non-human species. They added a barrier between human and dog to make their setup more like the chimps'. They put the objects they were pointing to on the far side of their animal subjects, so the humans really couldn't reach the objects themselves. They also replaced containers and hidden food with boring, inedible objects, such as a rope or a sponge. Then they gathered 32 dogs and 20 chimps. ("For practical reasons," the authors write, "the studies of the chimpanzees and the dogs were conducted separately.")
First came a warm-up phase in which the experimenter encouraged the animal to fetch a single object (in exchange for a treat) by saying "Give it to me!" This taught the animals to associate the voice command with retrieving an object. But the experimenter didn't point or look at the object she wanted.
For the experiment itself, there were two objects in the room instead of one. The experimenter pointed to the one she wanted and repeated the "Give it to me!" command, moving her eyes between the animal and the desired object to make her point clearer. The dog or chimp had to turn around, retrieve the correct object, and bring it back to the experimenter to get a treat.
The chimpanzees flunked the test. While they consistently picked up one of the two objects and brought it back to the researcher, they only picked the correct object half the time. But the dogs, as a group, performed significantly better than if they were guessing. (And they did even better when the barrier between them and the human experimenter was removed.)
It's not that chimpanzees don't follow other animals' gazes. Previous studies found that great apes will look where a human is looking to check for anything of interest. But they don't seem to understand that gaze as a form of communication. And pointing with a finger--which is really just an exaggerated way to show where you're looking--doesn't help them.
Dogs, on the other hand, have evolved to be highly attuned to what humans want. As long as they pee outside and perform the duties we assign them (sheep herding, duck retrieving, company keeping) we give them food and warm place to stay.
Of course, dogs' understanding of human gestures will depend somewhat on their personal experiences with their owners. In this study, many of the individual dogs did not perform any better than chance. But earlier studies have shown that young puppies can understand human finger-pointing, while young wolves don't understand it as well.
The fact that chimps don't understand pointing as a form of communication suggests this isn't a universal ape gesture. They can follow a gaze and understand that other individuals have different perspectives; and the captive chimps in this study should have been especially used to communicating with people. But, fittingly enough, the gesture that says "go and fetch that thing for me" seems to be specifically human.
Kirchhofer, K., Zimmermann, F., Kaminski, J., & Tomasello, M. (2012). Dogs (Canis familiaris), but Not Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), Understand Imperative Pointing PLoS ONE, 7 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030913
Photo: by me.
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Kirchhofer, K., Zimmermann, F., Kaminski, J., & Tomasello, M. (2012) Dogs (Canis familiaris), but Not Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), Understand Imperative Pointing. PLoS ONE, 7(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030913
The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota sued some of the world’s biggest beer makers over severe alcohol-related issues in the community. ... Read more »
May PA, & Smith MB. (1988) Some Navajo Indian opinions about alcohol abuse and prohibition: a survey and recommendations for policy. Journal of studies on alcohol, 49(4), 324-34. PMID: 3172780
Beauvais, F. (1988) American Indians and Alcohol. Alcohol Health , 22(4), 253-259. info:/
The latest February 2012 issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry features a paper about the association between child abuse and later mental health problems. I haven't read it yet, but it looks pretty good.However, it also includes an editorial from John Read and Richard Bentall which argues that: Just 20 years ago, however, it would have been difficult to get the paper published. Mental health professions have been slow, even resistant, to recognise the role of childhood adversities in psychiatric disorder... Until very recently the hypothesis that abuse in childhood has a causal role in psychosis was regarded by many biologically oriented psychiatrists as heresy...Really? I checked the BJP from exactly 20 years ago. The February 1992 issue contained:A paper about child sexual abuse in female psychiatric patients.A letter praising a different article, on the same topic.A review of 11 studies on psychosocial family interventions as treatments for schizophrenia.A paper looking at the effect of the social environment on symptoms of schizophrenia.Four strikes and they're out. It's not true that this kind of thing wasn't being discussed 20 years ago.Such grandstanding is bad for science. Few would deny that psychiatry in recent years has undervalued psychosocial factors and overvalued genetics and neuroscience, but it's actually quite a complicated story, not a Punch and Judy show with bad guys on one side and good guys on the other.Rhetorical flourishes like this editorial certainly get attention but in the long run, down that road lies madness.Read, J., and Bentall, R. (2012). Negative childhood experiences and mental health: theoretical, clinical and primary prevention implications The British Journal of Psychiatry, 200 (2), 89-91 DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.111.096727... Read more »
Read, J., & Bentall, R. (2012) Negative childhood experiences and mental health: theoretical, clinical and primary prevention implications. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 200(2), 89-91. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.111.096727
Many suggest food sharing is the foundation of society, sowing the seeds of co-operation that eventually gave rise to the complex culture we know and love. Thus explaining why food sharing developed is an area of importance when it comes to understanding Homo sapiens as we see them today. Of course, as with just about [...]... Read more »
Frank Marlowe. (2004) What Explains Hadza Food Sharing?. Research in Economic Anthropology,, 69-88. info:/10.1016/S0190-1281(04)23003-7
In 1976, the polymathic Princeton psychologist Julian Jaynes published The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It is one of those rare books which is mostly wrong but is filled with so many penetrating and provocative insights that it still deserves to be read. It’s a fun and big idea book [...]... Read more »
Author's Note: This is the second post in what I envision as a series addressing the history and practice of bioarchaeology around the world. The first post was Part I - America.
Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem.
[It was such a massive task to establish the Roman race.]
(Vergil, Aeneid 1.33)
One of the major themes of the Aeneid is the struggle of the protagonist to reach Rome. The burden of founding the population of Rome rests entirely on heroic Aeneas, and the quotation above illustrates the immense effort required to create what was, at the time, the largest city in the known world.
Aeneas Fleeing Troy, by F. Barocci, 1598 (credit)
With history and myth stretching back over two millennia, the biological and cultural origins of the Italian people are quite different than the story of the colonists in America. Modern anthropology in the American (Boasian) tradition has been characterized as “a bond between subject matters... part history, part literature, part natural science, part social science” (Wolf 1964). Most American anthropologists practice their research in a four-field manner that promotes an holistic approach to academic inquiry through incorporation of linguistics, culture, archaeology, and biology. Italian anthropology, on the other hand, is not as coherent a discipline as American anthropology -- archaeology can be found in either history or classics departments, physical anthropology is often found in biology departments, and cultural anthropology is split among four different subfields comprising cultural anthropology, (British-inspired) social anthropology, ethnology, and folklore.
The Italian and American anthropological traditions reflect a disparate response to differing subjects of inquiry and the contingencies of political history, and it's interesting to see where the two traditions paralleled one another and diverged, with the result that, today, bioarchaeology is a more mature discipline in contemporary American archaeology compared to Roman archaeology.
Classical Origins of Anthropology
Some would argue that the roots of Mediterranean anthropology can be found in ancient literature. Homer knew about the Scythians in the north and the Ethiopians in the south, and by the 8th century BC, Greek colonizing efforts expanded the oikoumene in all directions (Kluckhohn 1961). In the mid 5th century BC, Herodotus, reporting on the aftermath of a battle in the Persian Wars, wrote that (Histories 3.12.2-3):
The skulls of the Persians are so brittle that if you throw no more than a pebble it will pierce them, but the Egyptian skulls are so strong that a blow of a stone will hardly break them. And this, the people said (which for my own part I readily believed), is the reason of it: the Egyptians shave their heads from childhood, and the bone thickens by exposure to the sun (Godley 1982).
Geography of the Oikoumene (credit)
Herodotus noticed a difference in the thickness of the skulls of two populations of warriors lying dead after a skirmish, which he attributed to the sun. This explanation isn't correct, but he did foreshadow discussions in physical anthropology of the effects of the environment on the human skeleton.
For examples of early ethnographies, we can look to Roman authors from the first century BC. Julius Caesar was both a consummate military general and a thorough recorder of the peoples with whom he came into contact in his conquering expeditions. His observations about the ancient Gauls in the first lines of Commentarii de Bello Gallico include geographic dispersal and linguistic differences:
Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae nostra Galli appelantur.
[All Gaul is divided into three parts: in one of these live the Belgae, in another the Aquitani, and in the third, the Galli, who call themselves the Celtae].
Lucretius, who wrote De Rerum Natura in the first century BC as well, included a more sophisticated idea of biological evolution than would be seen for thousands of years, and in the first century AD, Tacitus wrote an early tribal ethnography of the Germani, touted by some as “the finest tribal monograph prior to the 19th century” (Grottanelli 1977:593).
Although this written tradition of investigating the cultural Other was largely continuous for two thousand years, the academic tradition of anthropology in Italy was surprisingly slow to develop. Pre-anthropological literature was largely comparative in nature, intent on describing variations and similarities among cultures. Philosophically minded Italians such as Giambattista Vico and F.A. Grimaldi denied in the mid-to-late 18th century that there was a linear progression to culture and that there was such a concept as Rousseau’s l’homme naturel or noble savage.
In spite of the legacy of the Renaissance to questions about natural history, art, and literature in Italy between the 16th and 18th centuries, Italian anthropology did not exist until the middle of the 19th century. Even in this century, however, Italy’s fight for political independence and unity between 1860 and 1870 absorbed much of the energy of the country (Grottanelli 1977:594).
Anthropology in the Italian Academy
It is important to note that the nomenclature for subfields and areas of anthropological concentration is not the same in Italy as in the U.S. The term antropologia was originally used to mean the English equivalent of physical anthropology, “the natural history of the human family” (Grottanelli 1977:597). What we call cultural anthropology is known in Italian as etnologia, which is distinct from folklore studies (demologia or storia delle tradizioni popolari in Italian) and, to a lesser extent today, distinct from a theoretical, sociocultural anthropology sometimes called antropologia... Read more »
B. Bernardini. (1976) Italian anthropology. Man, 11(2), 283-283. info:/
Dyson, S. (1993) From New to New Age Archaeology: Archaeological Theory and Classical Archaeology-A 1990s Perspective. American Journal of Archaeology, 97(2), 195. DOI: 10.2307/505656
Grottanelli, V. (1977) Ethnology and/or Cultural Anthropology in Italy: Traditions and Developments. Current Anthropology, 18(4), 593. DOI: 10.1086/201970
Renfrew, C. (1980) The Great Tradition versus the Great Divide: Archaeology as Anthropology?. American Journal of Archaeology, 84(3), 287. DOI: 10.2307/504703
Woolf, G. (2004) The Present State and Future Scope of Roman Archaeology: A Comment. American Journal of Archaeology, 108(3), 417-428. DOI: 10.3764/aja.108.3.417
"It is not so much our friends' help that helps usas the confident knowledge that they will help us."-Epicurus, Greek philosopher (341 - 270 BC)“Silences make the real conversations between friends.Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.”-Margaret Lee Runbeck, American author (1905 - 1956)photo by Jérôme Micheletta, Macaca Nigra ProjectWhere would we be without our friends? Friends lend a hand in bad times and cheer uson in good times. They make us laugh, share their food, and tell us where tofind interesting things… like fruit or coconuts!Okay,so maybe finding fruit and coconuts isn’t that high on your priority list, butit seems to be pretty high on the list for crested macaques. And lucky forthem, they have friends to rely on too.Jérôme Micheletta and Bridget Waller at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom set out to determine whether social factors influence the ability of crestedmacaques to follow the eye gaze of a group-mate and potentially gain importantinformation. To do this, they hung out at the Marwell Wildlife Zoological Parkin Winchester, U.K. every day to watch and video record the crested macaques.An experimenter would wait for two crested macaques to be within 1 meter ofeach other with one individual facing the experimenter (they called this animal“the informant”… not to be confused with Matt Damon) and the other individualfacing the informant and facing away from the experimenter (they called thisanimal “the subject”). You can imagine, this process involved a lot of waitingaround. Once the animals were in place, the experimenter held up a yummy treat(an orange, a banana, or a coconut). The informant would see the treat and thenthe subject would either look at the treat or not. In these cases, the subjectslooked at the treats 64% of the time.This figure from Micheletta and Waller's Animal Behaviour paper shows their experimental procedures.But how do we know that the subjects followed the informants’ gaze and didn’trespond to something the experimenter or some distant cage-mate did? Michelettaand Waller also recorded the responses of the same animals in a control situation:the experimenter would wait for a subject to be away from its cage-mates, butwith its back turned to the experimenter. Then the experimenter would hold upthe yummy treat. In these control trials, the subjects looked at the treatsonly 7% of the time.So it looks like crested macaques use their peers’ eye gaze as information onwhere to look. They also were faster to look if their cage-mate moved his/herhead in combination with an eye movement, rather than just the eyes. But, doesthe social context matter? For each pair of macaques, Micheletta and Wallercalculated the relative dominance status and friendship strength. They usedmonths of observations of aggressive encounters in which they knew the winnersand losers of each encounter to rank the overall dominance hierarchy of eachanimal in the group. A typical aggressive encounter either involved one monkeychasing another (which would either run away or crouch) or a monkey approachinganother and taking away his/her food or grooming-buddy or mate (How rude!). Theyalso determined friendship strength by calculating the average number of timesthey sat in contact with or groomed a specific individual versus other animalsin the group.If the informant was a friend, the subject was quicker to look at the food than ifthe informant was not a friend, although friendship did not influence theoverall success rate. And the relative dominance status didn’t seem to have anyeffect. Why might macaques follow their friends’ gazes faster than nonfriends’ gazes? Maybethey are generally more visually attentive to their friends than theirnonfriends, as is true in chimpanzees, siamangs, chacma baboons and ring-tailedlemurs. Or maybe a friend’s informationis more relevant than a nonfriend’s information. Friends often share motivationsand needs and often compete less and share more with each other than withnonfriends (although there are many exceptions to this, as you may haveexperienced). All of these possibilities leave open new avenues for futureresearch. But one thing is clear: It sure is good to have friends.Want to know more? Check this out:Micheletta, J., & Waller, B. (2012). Friendship affects gaze following in a tolerant species of macaque, Macaca nigra Animal Behaviour, 83 (2), 459-467 DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.11.018Do you have a thought on friends that you would like to share? Comment below.... Read more »
Micheletta, J., & Waller, B. (2012) Friendship affects gaze following in a tolerant species of macaque, Macaca nigra. Animal Behaviour, 83(2), 459-467. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.11.018
US researchers have discovered that Philippine Tarsier can “talk” within the pure ultrasound domain, this is, above human hearing capacity.... Read more »
Interpreting mortuary patterns of the deceased requires not only archaeological evidence, but an understanding of the broader cultural patterns. Funerary rites and burial practices are shaped by the social and cultural ideologies and structures of the community. Mortuary patterns have … Continue reading →... Read more »
Schaffer, W., Carr, R., Day, J., & Pateman, M. (2012) Lucayan-Taíno burials from Preacher's cave, Eleuthera, Bahamas. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 22(1), 45-69. DOI: 10.1002/oa.1180
I participated in a school play when I was 10 years old which opened with the following lyrics Evolution; Evolution; Make and fix and mend; But now it’s at an end; Evolution! I’ll give the Americans reading a minute to pick their jaws off the floor and get over the fact a school play is [...]... Read more »
Laland, K., Odling-Smee, J., & Feldman, M. (2000) Niche construction, biological evolution, and cultural change. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23(1), 131-146. DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X00002417
The name “Cahokia” comes from one of the constituent tribes of the Illinois Confederacy, a group of several semi-autonomous “tribes” or “villages” that occupied much of what is now the state of Illinois and parts of some of the surrounding states in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Staunch allies of the French throughout most of [...]... Read more »
Blasingham, E. (1956) The Depopulation of the Illinois Indians. Part 2, Concluded. Ethnohistory, 3(4), 361. DOI: 10.2307/480464
Wedel, W. (1945) On the Illinois Confederacy and Middle Mississippi Culture in Illinois. American Antiquity, 10(4), 383. DOI: 10.2307/275581
Wray, D., & Smith, H. (1944) An Hypothesis for the Identification of the Illinois Confederacy with the Middle Mississippi Culture in Illinois. American Antiquity, 10(1), 23. DOI: 10.2307/275179
While Americans gather around the nachos today to find out whether the Patriots beat the Giants and how much clothing Danica Patrick wears in her GoDaddy spot, advertisers will have their fingers crossed that their commercial makes a good impression. They've paid millions of dollars for each 30-second ad. That's because they assume this piece of TV real estate is the most valuable there is. But they should be crossing their fingers for a close game--with their ad aired at the very end.
A theory called excitation transfer says that your excitement from one event can overflow into the next thing that happens. So researchers from the University of Oregon decided to find out whether a hotly contested sports game makes the ads that interrupt it more exciting too. They also wanted to know if it mattered where in the game an ad was shown. And finally, did the commercial itself have to be exciting for the effect to work?
Colleen Bee and Robert Madrigal gathered 112 undergrads and 4 TV ads. In earlier testing, people had rated these ads as especially suspenseful or especially not suspenseful. (To prove it, the authors describe each ad in their paper. A suspenseful Nike ad: "International football (soccer) commercial featuring international players against monsters/demons in a dramatic match for the survival of football." An un-suspenseful ad: "Two women playing golf illustrating the frustrations and subsequent solution to bladder control issues." I'd argue that bladder control issues are pretty suspenseful, but apparently that urgency didn't carry over to the commercial.)
In small groups, subjects watched footage of basketball games involving their college team. The footage was edited into four different mini-games (each consisting of two four-minute halves). Subjects saw a close game that the home team lost; a close game the home team won; a win where their team had a wide lead the whole time; or a loss in which their team was always well behind.
Subjects also saw two ads at "halftime," and the other two after the game was over, making note of their reactions to each ad. The order of the four ads was shuffled between the different groups of subjects. From all this, the researchers found three things that make viewers see ads more positively:
When they watched suspenseful games--that is, games where the score was close throughout--viewers reported having a more powerful emotional response to an ad. They also reported feeling more positive about the ad and the brand itself.
But wait, there's more! This effect was only found when there was also...
The ads that drew the best response from viewers were the ones shown immediately after the end of a suspenseful game. Not in the middle of the game; not a couple ad slots after the game ended; but right after the clock ticked down.
This fits with the theory that residual excitement about an event can spill over into the next event. It's interesting, though, that excitement during the middle of a game doesn't have the same effect. Maybe anxiety over the outcome takes away from people's positive feelings about the ads they're seeing.
Finally, the researchers found that it was necessary to have...
The ad itself must also be suspenseful for the effect to appear. No matter how exciting a sporting event is, that bladder control golf game is just not going to get anyone revved up. But suspenseful ads (like the Nike spot with the demonic soccer players) can get a boost by appearing at the very end of an exciting game.
Since subjects were watching their home basketball team compete, the researchers expected the outcome of the game to be important too. But in this case, they were surprised. Win or lose, the results were the same. Suspenseful ads immediately following a suspenseful game got the best response from viewers, whether or not their team won.
The outcomes of these basketball games, though, had been decided long before viewers saw the footage. Subjects might have felt more suspense--and been more swayed by a win or loss--if the games were taking place in real time. Additionally, the authors point out that pausing after every commercial to rank your emotional responses isn't exactly the normal way of watching TV. Viewers who aren't being forced to stop and reflect on their feelings might not have the same perception of ads as these subjects did.
This study doesn't address how someone's positive feelings about an advertisement might translate into recognizing a brand in the future, or buying that brand's products. That's, of course, the bottom line for advertisers. But it stands to reason that your positive feelings about a TV ad could become positive feelings the next time you see that brand--maybe on a store shelf.
The Super Bowl, too, is a special case. Some people look forward to the ads more than the game itself, and advertisers are pulling out all the stops. But if today's game is a close one--and if it's immediately followed by an exciting ad--we'll see whether critics are swayed to put that ad on their top-10 lists Monday morning.
Colleen C. Bee, & Robert Madrigal (2012). It's not whether you win or lose, it's how the game is played: The influence of suspenseful sports programming on advertising Journal of Advertising, 41 (1)
Image: Screenshot from Bud Light "Replay" commercial, my favorite.
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Colleen C. Bee, & Robert Madrigal. (2012) It's not whether you win or lose, it's how the game is played: The influence of suspenseful sports programming on advertising. Journal of Advertising, 41(1). info:/
In the December issue of American Anthropologist, forensic anthropologist Heather Walsh-Haney published an interesting review article on the forensics in Kathy Reichs' series of Temperance Brennan novels (which have, of course, been further fictionalized as the FOX television show Bones - reviewed here by me).
Walsh-Haney appreciates Reichs' popular press books, noting that they do much to counter the "public's misguided and exaggerated expectations regarding the infallibility, ubiquity, and timelessness of forensic science" (p. 650). The novels in fact "comprehensively and correctly educate the public about forensic anthropology, including its limitations and challenges" (p. 651).
Another laudatory aspect of Reichs' books, according to Walsh-Haney, is the inclusion of participant-observation and ethnography. Most examples that I can think of from the books (and, yes, I have read every single one, cover-to-cover, mostly on airplanes), though, are more about Brennan interviewing suspects and witnesses and not what I'd consider Reichs' highlighting "both the holistic nature of anthropology and how those elements might be brought to bear by current [forensic] practitioners" (p. 651).
I do like that Walsh-Haney criticizes Reichs for her outdated use of race/ancestry: "Brennan uses the antiquated terms Caucasoid and Mongoloid to describe human diversity... the public's understanding of the practice of forensic anthropology would be further clarified on this point if Reichs were to use her fictional narrative to introduce the history behind the terms and current usage" (p. 651). One of the things that always annoys me in Reichs' books - aside from the un-complicated assessment of "race" - is that she (or her editor) always uses "phalange" instead of "phalanx" for each of the finger bones. I swear that word appears at least once in every book, and it just makes me cringe.
After reading Walsh-Haney's brief review article, I was a bit surprised by the high praise. Granted, Reichs' books are the best and most accurate of any forensic-true-crime series I've read (ahem, looking at you, Patricia Cornwell... ugh). But they can be readily critiqued. In the past, I have required all my undergraduates in Intro to Forensic Anthropology to read and review Reichs' Bare Bones in comparison with the information presented in Byers' Introduction to Forensic Anthropology text. (The guidelines for the review assignment are here for anyone who's interested). Unfortunately, I don't have notes or copies of students' papers, but we found plenty of fodder for a lively discussion of the realities of forensic anthropology and the liberties taken when writing a popular novel.
At any rate, now that I know it's possible to get published in American Anthropologist by writing about Temperance Brennan, I gotta put together an essay on Season 6 of Bones. (I'm only half joking.) The TV show is most definitely not as accurate as the book series, but it's entertaining and often informative. That counts for a lot.
Walsh-Haney, H. (2011). Can Grave Secrets Be Revealed via Analysis of Bare Bones? How Kathy Reichs's Fiction Novels Feed the Public Perception of Forensic Anthropology American Anthropologist, 113 (4), 650-652 DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2011.01379.x.... Read more »
Walsh-Haney, H. (2011) Can Grave Secrets Be Revealed via Analysis of Bare Bones? How Kathy Reichs's Fiction Novels Feed the Public Perception of Forensic Anthropology. American Anthropologist, 113(4), 650-652. DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2011.01379.x
England once looked very different. Much of southern Britain was marshland for most of the island’s occupied history. These bogs, fens, and marshes ensured that areas of virtual wilderness persisted from before Roman Britain through the Norman period and beyond. Despite the difficulties of using fenlands, these areas were not only occupied throughout the Anglo-Saxon [...]... Read more »
Gowland RL, & Western AG. (2011) Morbidity in the marshes: Using spatial epidemiology to investigate skeletal evidence for malaria in Anglo-Saxon England (AD 410-1050). American journal of physical anthropology. PMID: 22183814
Suicide terrorism is a peculiar business. As a means of killing civilians it is hugely efficient. Steven Pinker explains that, “it combines the ultimate in surgical weapon delivery – the precision manipulators and locomotors called hands and feet, controlled by the human eyes and brain – with the ultimate in stealth – a person who [...]... Read more »
Sosis, R., & Bressler, E. (2003) Cooperation and Commune Longevity: A Test of the Costly Signaling Theory of Religion. Cross-Cultural Research, 37(2), 211-239. DOI: 10.1177/1069397103037002003
Repost: originally appearing at endtheneglect.org April 29, 2011… Imagine for a moment you don’t live where you live. Let’s say you live in Benin, or Togo, or Côte D’Ivoire, or perhaps Ghana (we can even add Australia to the list). Perhaps one day you notice on your ankle a small, somewhat pointed elevation of the [...]... Read more »
Stienstra Y, van der Graaf WT, Asamoa K, & van der Werf TS. (2002) Beliefs and attitudes toward Buruli ulcer in Ghana. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene, 67(2), 207-13. PMID: 12389949
Walsh DS, Portaels F, & Meyers WM. (2011) Buruli ulcer: Advances in understanding Mycobacterium ulcerans infection. Dermatologic clinics, 29(1), 1-8. PMID: 21095521
I've posted a couple times about the prospects of using high-resolution computed tomography imaging to assess cellular-level processes of growth and development. Today, Paul Tafforeau and colleagues present a synchrotron-based visualization of the adventurous paths that individual enamel-forming cells'(ameloblasts) take to form tooth crowns. I've been focusing more on using these techniques for studying bone growth, but I got the idea of that from previous studies of teeth (see Macchiarelli et al. 2006 and Smith et al. 2010).Tafforeau et al 2012, Fig 3. Scale bar = 0.25 mmTime was, the internal microstructure and growth of enamel could only be examined using sectioned (either cut or naturally fractured) tooth crowns. Synchrotron imaging of teeth allowed Tafforeau and colleagues to get at this internal information in complete teeth whose insides are unexposed.To the left is a "virtual" section of a molar tooth, the 'base' of the enamel (at the enamal-dentine junction) is at the bottom right, and the external surface of the tooth is at the top left. The lines radiating from the EDJ to the crown surface are enamel prisms, the mineralized paths of cells called "ameloblasts" that form tooth crowns. This is the cellular process by enamel is deposited to form a rock-hard tooth.Note that the prisms start off packed closely together as they start their journey from the EDJ, but slowly diverge along roughly-parallel paths to be a bit further apart from one another (cross-sections in the cubes). The prisms' shadow on projected onto the exposed crown shows how non-linearly ameloblasts course to their final destination in some dimensions - I for one don't know why the path contains these kinks.As with any awesome method, there are nevertheless limitations. Tafforeau and team say that enamel closer to the inside of the tooth is somewhat muddled, due to differences in the extent to which prisms had mineralized. And I don't know any numbers, but I'd guess that scanning a lot of teeth would get pretty expensive. But ultimately is a pretty badass research tool. This fine-scale internal view of tooth microstructure can allow researchers to reconstruct how a tooth grew, and from there to examine the cellular growth processes involved in certain crown shapes, mechanical properties of teeth, and how enamel hypoplasias (markers of health stress) are created by affecting the behavior of cells. Very cool stuff.Those papersMacchiarelli, R., Bondioli, L., Debénath, A., Mazurier, A., Tournepiche, J., Birch, W., & Dean, M. (2006). How Neanderthal molar teeth grew Nature, 444 (7120), 748-751 DOI: 10.1038/nature05314Smith, T., Tafforeau, P., Reid, D., Pouech, J., Lazzari, V., Zermeno, J., Guatelli-Steinberg, D., Olejniczak, A., Hoffman, A., Radovcic, J., Makaremi, M., Toussaint, M., Stringer, C., & Hublin, J. (2010). Dental evidence for ontogenetic differences between modern humans and Neanderthals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107 (49), 20923-20928 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1010906107Tafforeau, P., Zermeno, J., & Smith, T. (2012). Tracking cellular-level enamel growth and structure in 4D with synchrotron imaging Journal of Human Evolution DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2012.01.001... Read more »
Smith, T., Tafforeau, P., Reid, D., Pouech, J., Lazzari, V., Zermeno, J., Guatelli-Steinberg, D., Olejniczak, A., Hoffman, A., Radovcic, J.... (2010) Dental evidence for ontogenetic differences between modern humans and Neanderthals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(49), 20923-20928. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1010906107
Tafforeau, P., Zermeno, J., & Smith, T. (2012) Tracking cellular-level enamel growth and structure in 4D with synchrotron imaging. Journal of Human Evolution. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2012.01.001
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